Friday, August 20, 2010

Web Site Basics

A companion to the publicity basics posting, because I've been surprised at how many arts organizations have web sites that aren't necessarily meeting the needs of their audience. I'm going to try a slightly different format owing to the nasty readability problems with Blogger bulleted lists.

DO make it easy to find information about your next concert. If you're a small organization, put all concert info right on the home page. If you're a big organization presenting dozens of performances a year (that means you're a big-city orchestra or opera company), put an obvious link somewhere on the home page. Putting it another way: information about your next concert should be no more than one click away and the information should be easy to find.

DO make it easy to buy tickets. Because you want people to buy tickets, don't you?
  • Make it easy to find prices.
  • Make it easy to buy tickets on line. You can use PayPal (I know of several small Bay Area organizations that do this), you can use a third-party vendor such as Brown Paper Tickets or City Box Office, you can have a custom page for credit card entry, but make it easy.
  • If you've got the budget to use Tessitura (again, big-city, big-budget organizations that perform in big venues), for the love of God, get the choose-your-own seat module. Do not make your customers loop through the ticketing process multiple times before they are assigned a satisfactory seat. (That means YOU, LA Opera.) Some percentage of them will give up on you, meaning you didn't succeed in selling a potential audience member a ticket.
  • If you're using Tessitura or other ticketing software, I assume it can tell you how many people get into the system without buying tickets. That's important to know and think about.
  • Regardless of which ticketing software you use, web analytics programs can tell you whether or not people navigate to the ticket-buying page.
Do make sure that some staff and board members of your organization check out the web site and go through the ticket ordering process. If there are issues with either, it's better for you to hear about them from a sympathetic party rather than a crabby blogger like me.

Do get some ordinary folks to try out your web site and comment on it.

Do think about accessibility issues. This topic is too complicated to really get into in a single blog posting, but there are many, many web sites out there discussing how to make your web site accessible for users who have visual impairments or blindness of different types, whether they are completely blind and use screen readers or they're color blind or partially sighted. Suffice it to say that it is not that hard to modify the HTML on your pages to make them easier to use.

Just a few minor points -
  • Don't make any web site functions or information dependent on color coding. About 10% of the population has limitations on what colors they can see.
  • Don't use teeny tiny fonts or fonts with super-light stroke weights.
  • Don't use white-on-black. Looks snazzy, but much harder to read than black on a lighter color.
Do make it easy to find the all-important Contact Us page. Put a link on the home page and, in fact, on every page. You want to hear from your audience members, whether they are happy or unhappy. You want journalists to contact you with questions. If your group can be hired for special events, you want to be contacted. So don't bury this page.

Do make any music on your page optional! Use a Listen to Us link instead of automatically launching an excerpt from your last performance or recording. Keep track of how many people click the link and how many don't.

Do make a list of the specific tasks you expect people to accomplish on your web site, then check to see how many clicks each task takes. Don't make people click too many times; they will give up. Don't make people scroll too much, either.

Don't make your web site look like a ransom note. Stick with a headline font and a body text font and leave it at that.

Don't have any blinking text at all on the page. It looks amateurish and silly and it's really annoying.

Do think about the layout and where you want links to be on the page. Make it consistent.
Don't hide content by only having important information linked to a second-level page.

Do hire a pro to help with all this stuff. And do get some trusted testers to try out all the functions before you launch.


pjwv said...

All excellent recommendations, but I especially like urging organizations towards the "choose your own seat" model -- I've decided I will no longer buy tickets on-line from groups that give me what they consider the "best seat available" instead of letting me choose.

Michael said...

For another take on the same subject:


Lisa Hirsch said...

I have seen that and it is great. I had another motivator for this series, an unfortunate encounter with a Bay Area group's web site yesterday. Not to mention the hell of buying tickets on line from SFS and LAO.